If there is a question I am frequently asked by parents, it is about whether their child can play college football. Parents are hopeful that their kids can play at the college level, and they are generally attuned to the many challenges of getting to play college ball. Dealing with academics and college finances is part of the big picture, but with National Signing Day fast approaching, parents and athletes are focused on college recruiting.
The Argus Leader recently ran an article discussing the difficulties faced by high school athletes in rural areas or from smaller schools who want to play college ball. How do they get the opportunity to play college ball? What things can families do to assist the process? There are many things for parents and athletes to consider in their quest to play at the college level.
1) The time to focus is during an athlete’s sophomore or junior year of high school. Beware of programs touted for very young kids that promise opportunities for youth to get seen and recruited. They are often expensive and don’t deliver on the promise of college scholarships.
2) Recruiting services are "money-traps." Unless an athlete wants to go to schools on the East or West coasts, coaches will see your athlete. Even if an athlete wants to get out of the Midwest, it's possible to self-promote just as effectively as any recruiting agency. With the technology and other resources available to athletes, they can make sure that coaches see what they have to offer without having to pay thousands of dollars to an unknown agency.
3) College camps have become a recruiting camp in many senses, but it is still a very effective way to let coaches see athletes firsthand and see the skills that they offer. College camps can let the coaches assess talent compared with other athletes, and it gives the coaches a chance to get to know your athlete. If athletes are considering attending a big school, then they should expect a lot of kids at that school’s camp. Many athletes have the same aspirations, but it is still a great chance to be in front of the coaches. This is a much better option when compared to recruiting firms or camps that are purely for profit.
4) Only attend combines and recruiting events that will have active college coaches in attendance. Many combines and all-star games will promise that there will be college coaches in attendance, when in fact there will not be anyone present. Do not be afraid to ask coaches if they will be in attendance or if someone from their staff will be there.
5) High school coaches are great assets for the recruiting process. High school coaches will receive a great deal of literature from colleges. Make sure that your coach knows that you have a goal of playing college football and at what level. Coaches can also make it known to the college coaches what an athlete’s goals are, and they can assist you with getting "seen" by the college coaches.
Families have to consider travel and cost. Consider whether traveling to a college camp on the West Coast is going to be something that will help your recruiting process, or whether the camp is "just for the experience." There are a large number of camps and opportunities, and things can add up quickly. This is still on top of all the events that your high school team may be participating in, family events, and individual training. Set a budget and then map out the camps that you think will fit into that budget.
6) Make sure that you are taking the necessary steps to become an eligible athlete. Athletes need to perform well on their ACT test, possess a solid GPA, register with the Clearinghouse, develop a realistic financial aid plan and consider state or private schools. All of these are things families need to consider and plan for in the recruiting process.
The key to a positive and productive college recruiting process is to know what level of play is realistic for an athlete and then to find connections and opportunities to get seen by programs that would be a good fit. Remember, academics are the most important fit, and football is part of the bigger picture. Review your options, discuss with coaches, and plan ahead to find realistic and beneficial opportunities for your athlete.